Bears, Cougars & BBQ in the Lincoln National Forest

You have just got to love the Desert. If ever there were a place in this world where you can learn to be alone with your thoughts and mindful of your surroundings it’s in a place like this.

It’s no wonder that the Native American ancestors sought out these big skies and open plains.

I imagine it was not an easy life living upon this raw land without the convenience of modern transportation and climate control devices like air conditioners and furnaces.

But just for a moment imagine living in the side of a cliff in a cave such as the one below.

Imagine waking up and looking out at the mule deer and the prong horn. Imagine seeing a dust storm rise as horses run wild. What it must have been like walking with the children and teaching them what plants were for food and which ones were for good medicine. Imagine strong, brave men wondering out into the vast wilderness surrounding them and teaching their sons to hunt and provide.

These are the thoughts I pondered as we made our way through the Chihuahuan Desert. The landscape seemed to go on in this perpetual stretch of sky, gypsum, limestone, cacti, grasses, and scrub before reaching the outskirts of our first destination: the Lincoln National Forest.

Our goal for this adventure was to visit a desert waterfall and hike a few of the many trails that surrounded it. As we all know, no vacation goes exactly as planned and we had to make a few modifications.

Seems we were not only in cougar country, but also in BEAR territory.

A fellow we watch on YouTube who is and avid hiker and mountaineer gave us this little insight about hiking in bear territory. He said when you see a sign where the word bear is in FULL CAPITOLIZATION there is a good chance that they are very active in that area. So when we saw this sign at the trailhead of the first hiking area we took heed.

I admit to being a “chicken little” when it comes to bears. I often worry far more than needed, but when we took into consideration that the previous evening we had eaten at Danny’s BBQ restaurant in Carlsbad after visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park and that we were still wearing the same deliciously smelling BBQ soaked clothing that we had worn the night before, well, we reconsidered that hike and headed for the falls.

I recalled my early morning dreams of living wild and free among the graceful and gentle animals of the desert with a new level of caution and fear. The desert can be a dangerous place for those who don’t know how to read or recognize the natural signs that there is potential danger lurking behind that bolder or just over the ridge. Thanks to the U.S. Forest Service us city-folk types have these manmade signs to keep us safe!

When hiking in bear territory we always prepare. We take bear spray and I carry an ear piercing airhorn as well. But they aren’t fool-proof measures. Bear spray only works as a deterrent under ideal conditions of wind and animal aggression. The airhorn is more to attract the attention of fellow hikers than it is an actual deterrent. So we have learned to follow our guts and if one of us is uncomfortable we heed those natural instincts.

Black bear attacks that result in death are uncommon. That’s a fact. But the very idea of being maimed and living to tell it about it is not on the top of my list of happy adventures either. Throw in the fact that we smelled a lot like a hog roasting over a campfire and we couldn’t help but feel like we just might be ringing the dinner bell. We decided to play it safe and scratch hiking in an “uncongested area” off today’s list.

Fortunately for us the beauty of the falls we were about to encounter made us forget all about this small disappointment.

Until next week – take care and enjoy the journey!



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